Miami (April 3, 2020) .- The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) report on press freedom in Nicaragua reveals that the country is undergoing a virtual state of siege, in which media and independent journalists continue to be harassed and attack by Daniel Ortega's regime.
The six-month report emphasizes that 19 months before the general elections, the government maintains a high level of secrecy and that the majority of media outlets belong to the presidential family.
The text of the report on Nicaragua follows:
"The situation of press freedom, politics and the economy have not improved in this period.
The country is undergoing a state of siege. The National Police or "Orteguista police" does not permit any meeting in public areas, in commercial centers and attacks with emphasis on those journalists that cover these events, robbing them of their cameras and cell phones. This repression brought upon the police severe sanctions implemented by the United States Treasury Department.
There were few positive exceptions, such as the return of the materials of La Prensa, an embargo suspended after 500 days, thanks to the intervention of Papal Nuncio Monsignor Waldemar Sommertag. The government also freed 91 political prisoners on December 30, 2019 and nine more on February 14. Still jailed are 59 political prisoners.
At 19 months until the general elections, secrecy has not improved. The hegemony of the news media of the government and of the president's family continues dominating, despite their small audience.
The media headquarters and equipment confiscated a year ago, such as Confidencial – the programs Tonight and This Week – and 100% Noticias have not been returned. There is maintained the prohibition of open and cable transmission. Since the second week of March the signal of YouTube and 100% Noticias has been closed down by the government, after Canal 4, owned by President Ortega's family, presented 44 complaints for publications between 2013 and 2015. 100% Noticias took many of its publications of the official or semi-official channels, such as Canal 4, the only ones that the government authorizes to publish official information.
The Violeta B. de Chamorro foundation made a study of the Law on Access to Public Information in 65 state institutions; 57 have their Web site, but only 26 have a linkage to the Office on Access to Information. There were made 57 requests for information online and only three received a response. Of 31 physical requests, only four received a reply. It was observed that party propaganda is the most notable of these Web sites and they lack information.
On February 25, on celebrating the 30th anniversary of the overthrow of Ortega by Violeta de Chamorro, there was formed an opposition coalition that organized picketing in different places that were attacked by the police, who also attacked journalists. Vice President Rosario Murillo, also sanctioned by the United States, ordered the police to increase patrolling in the main cities so as to prevent "any perverse attempt of wanting to alter the peace." While Murillo was talking more than 100 anti-riot policemen injured six journalists in the Metrocentro Commercial Center.
Jaime Arellano, a television commentator, and Lolo Blandino called for a march. In response, police surrounded their homes without allowing anyone to leave or enter for five days. La Prensa also has been besieged by several anti-riot police patrols that remain in front of their installations, but they have not detained anyone.
In the church service with the body of poet and priest Ernesto Cardenal sandinista mobs attacked the religious persons and beat several journalists, such as Ham Lawrence of Managua Investiga, who had to be hospitalized.
The Chamorro Foundation reported that it has identified 21 new digital version news platforms after the civic rebellion of 2018."
The IAPA also issued a resolution on Nicaragua demanding that the government cease its repression against journalists and protesters, and respect human rights and the basic principles of democracy.
The IAPA is a non-profit organization dedicated to the defense and promotion of freedom of the press and expression in the Americas. It is made up of more than 1,300 publications from the Western Hemisphere; and is based in Miami, Florida, United States.